COVID-19 Second Wave And Health Workers

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Government should provide the necessary equipment to front-line health workers

The recent alarm by the Abuja branch chairman of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Enema Amodu, that no fewer than 20 medical doctors lost their lives to COVID-19 within a period of one week should worry critical stakeholders in the health sector. That these victims include consultants, professors and resident doctors point to the rapid rate of infections since the second wave of the deadly virus. Sadly, as scary as the statistics may seem, the threat is not exclusive to doctors. Hundreds of other health workers have been infected at one point or the other in the course of interacting with COVID-19 patients or samples. Not many have lived to tell their stories.

Our main concern is with the official response to the challenge. Despite the high risks associated with being on the front line of the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, health workers in the country have not been adequately motivated. Their families are at risk. Many of them work without the essential personal protective equipment (PPE). Majority are not insured. While we understand the expensive nature of PPE, no cost can be put on the lives of our health workers. Failure to invest in the protection of medical personnel would mean gambling with their lives and that of their family members. If they withdraw their services, we will not get the needed workforce to treat the growing spread of the virus. We hope the authorities will look into all these issues and offer comprehensive measures to contain the problem.

Globally, over a million health workers have been infected by the virus through exposure to infected persons while a significant number have lost their lives to it. The International Council of Nurses in October said over 1500 nurses in 44 countries have died from the disease. The council added that there is a possibility of over 5,000 deaths among its members battling the pandemic across the world.

With most countries experiencing the second wave of COVID-19, which experts suggest is more virulent and spreads faster than the earlier strain of the disease, there is need for the Nigerian authorities to put in measures to ensure its spread is halted, especially among front-line health workers whose health and wellbeing are vital to the successful treatment and survival of the population against the pandemic.

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has warned that Nigeria was experiencing the second wave of the pandemic and that the increased numbers of infection and death were due to it. The NMA president, Innocent Ujah, has called on government at all levels to provide PPE, running water, soap, gloves and hand sanitisers to doctors and other health workers attending to COVID-19 patients. “We have also advised the federal government to ban flights from the United Kingdom and the United States because passengers from these places are the ones compounding our cases here,” he said.

Across the country, the level of compliance with the COVID-19 protocols is still very low. Churches and Mosques still gather crowds for Sunday services and Jumaat prayers respectively. Social outings like weddings and burials are still being conducted without regard for the protocols. In many of our schools, there are no basic tools for temperature screening, students moved around without face masks while there is no running water for handwashing. As things stand today, there is still much to worry about.

Meanwhile, The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) should work with the federal government and the authorities in the 36 states to ramp up the proposed insurance health package for all health workers at the front-line of the fight against COVID-19. The package must be appreciable enough to motivate them to keep fighting for the country. While the PTF has said it was putting new measures in place to ensure the virus does not spread further, it should prioritise the provision of PPE to the workers because without them, we truly have nothing to win the fight against the pandemic.

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The federal government and the 36 states should ramp up the proposed insurance health package for all health workers at the front-line of the fight against COVID-19